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Researchers Develop Quick Way to Create Human Antibodies
Date:4/30/2008

Finding could speed development of vaccines for new flu strains, other health threats

WEDNESDAY, April 30 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have devised a rapid and efficient method for generating protein sentinels of the immune system, called monoclonal antibodies, which mark and neutralize foreign invaders.

The development could potentially accelerate the traditionally challenging task of generating human antibodies, which can be used both to develop faster disease diagnostics -- for instance, to test for a new flu strain shortly after it emerges -- as well as safer and more effective medications, including vaccines.

"I think it's an important, incremental advance in our ability to provide antigen-specific monoclonal antibodies quickly and efficiently," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He was not involved with the study, but the institute did fund some of the research.

The findings were published online April 30 in the journal Nature.

When a person is exposed to a germ or a vaccine, the immune system mounts a series of challenges to confront the foreign particles. One of those responses involves so-called B cells, which begin to secrete antibodies. Antibodies are proteins, and each binds to a specific three-dimensional shape, or antigen, on the pathogen's surface, blocking its ability to enter cells, or marking it for destruction by other immune cells.

Each B cell can make only one type of antibody. But because most antigens are relatively large, there may be several different B cells whose antibodies will bind to any given antigen. The resulting pool of antibodies is termed "polyclonal," because it arises from multiple clones of activated B cells.

A monoclonal antibody, as its name implies, is the product of a single B-cell clone, so it binds just to a single shape on the antigen's surface. Monoclonals are
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